Get Tough: Staying Safe on Trail

In 2016 alone, there were three highly publicized reports of hikers being attacked on the trail in Western North Carolina, and one incident of nails being sprinkled along a trail system in Sylva.

While each incident was isolated and took place in different locations, they serve as reminders for outdoor enthusiasts to take added safety precautions on trail.

For trail runners and hikers, Richard Howell of Double Edge Self Defense offered a few tips for individuals who are hiking, running, or walking alone to stay alert on trail:

– Only put one ear bud in during workout – listen

– Park your car by backing in first – this acts as a fast exit strategy

– Leave your schedule/route with a friend; don’t publish it; honor it

– Beware of predator “closing” techniques:  the needy person with the arm-in-cast; the charmer; the common interest person

– In a majority of occurrences, the predator is someone you know or are familiar with

– “NO” is a complete sentence

– Demand that strangers respect your boundaries, and enforce your boundaries

– Respect your instincts: women especially have acute instincts– listen to them

– You have a right to be rude: apologize later if you misread someone’s intent, meaning you’re aggressively backed them off

– Eyeball potential threats, don’t be timid:  let them know you can ID them and you are not an easy target

– Do one thing at a time. Don’t talk on your cell, change your shoes, towel off, and water the dog at the same time. Pay attention before, during, and after your workout

– Predators are lazy: They want it easy, quiet, and at a location of their choosing

-Never go to a second location – impair the predator now

– In the moment of chaos, you may not see the weapon they use:  if you see it– it is for intimidation, otherwise you would already be injured, if not dead; the predator uses the tool (knife, gun) to get you under control and usually to go to another location;  Attack them  (eyes, neck, groin)

While these tips, help to stay aware and alert, taking one’s self defense knowledge and practice a step further can also help trail enthusiasts practice their self-defense skills in real life situations.

“We are socialized, peaceful humans,” said Howell. “We avoid conflict. We abhor violence. At our very core, there is a disinclination to react, not to mention attack. We just want the bad man to go away. [This is] understandable, but dangerous in the moment of chaos. Self-defense training helps mitigate — [it] helps you see it coming (in class you’ll roleplay), [and] helps break the freeze. [But] also helps you win [by] exceeding the attacker’s violence, and injuring the attacker. Throw a short list of strikes to specific targets – eyes, neck, and groin, to mention a few.”

Self-defense can help targets to injure and get away from their attacker, but taking a class or training hardwires self-defense moves and tactics via repetition and practice. If and when self-defense is needed – the ‘moment of chaos’ – targeted individuals can bypass freezing up in the moment by defaulting to those methods and techniques learned and practiced in class. Training and classes are important to helping individuals learn critical skills and to think quickly in a safe, targeted, and well-managed environment.

“On the one hand, students get only limited value from sanitized chalk talks and stats if their instructor addresses only awareness and prevention [and] on the other, some students may become falsely empowered by their combat skills or weapons,” said Howell. “Self-defense is a composite skill – as much mental as physical – that needs honing.”

For more information about upcoming classes and training with Double Edge Self Defense, visit

Additional classes can be found at Asheville Integrated Combatives (, Budo Mountain ( for Self Defense, and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

By Whitney Cooper